The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer

The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer, published by The Word Works in Washington, D.C., is a beautifully lyric collection of poems that explore the fine line between imagination/hope and reality, and on many occasions, Geyer’s poems end with an unexpected result.  In the first section, she explores the wonders of childbirth and miracles, but these poems also hover on the edge of death and the power that comes with bringing about the end.  In “Without Warning,” the onset of death is wrought with many to-do lists, but never on the list is what can be done with the last breath.  But in “After Having Been Distracted,” the narrator’s attention is called to the struggle for life of a cicada only to find that she must be the one to end it.  In many ways, these are poems about miracles, but miracles that don’t exactly have happy endings.

From "Afternoon on Portland Harbor" (page 18-9):

... Gravity tugs
us along the tilted deck -- our braced thighs hum

to the heartbeat of keel against water.
The crew feathers the sails to lessen the heel.

Hush the harbor soothes as we slow
to a near-stall.  Buoy bells toll

Geyer’s poems are musical and the rhythm transports her readers to that place she’s describing, like the boat in the poem cited above.  In the third section of poems, illusions — many of them held since childhood — are broken down, like the superhero hands of a mother being scarred and gnarled.  There also are poems that touch on the healing, or maybe numbing, effects of time, particularly its ability to make the hurt of abandonment not as fresh as it could be, like in Geyer’s “The Door.”  But then there is the silence of widowhood, which calls to mind Plath’s version of this topic in her collection Crossing the Water.  While Plath talks of widowhood as a crushing state for women who are overshadowed by their husbands even after death, Geyer’s poem speaks to the silent pride of the state and the perseverance it takes to keep moving forward.  And while there is a sense of loss in many of these poems, this section also speaks of hope — the unexpected still to come with renewal, particularly in “New Porch.”

Geyer deftly combines fairy tales with nature imagery and more modern situations and sensibilities in a collection that strives to sing the praises of restraint and letting go.  The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer explores the tipping point between expressing fear, anger, sadness, and other emotions at any moment and the decisions to remain silent and strong in the face of others and for others.  Like the scabbard that holds the sword from the fight or releases it, the throat becomes that scabbard to hold back or let loose the voice and emotion of these poems.  Another collection that has spoken and blow me away with its lyricism and poignancy.

This is my 12th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.




This is my 21st book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.




About the Poet:

Bernadette Geyer is a poet and copy editor in the Washington, DC, area.  Geyer’s first full-length manuscript, The Scabbard of Her Throat, was selected by Cornelius Eady for publication in the Hilary Tham Capital Collection series of The Word Works. Geyer is the author of a poetry chapbook, What Remains, and recipient of a 2010 Strauss Fellowship from the Arts Council of Fairfax County. Her poetry has appeared in Oxford American, North American Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Verse Daily, and elsewhere.  Geyer’s non-fiction has appeared in WRITERS’ Journal, The Montserrat Review, Freelance Writer’s Report, World Energy Review, and Marco Polo Magazine. Photo by Emily Korff, Veralana Photography

Click the image below for today’s National Poetry Month Tour Post!


  1. You’ve definitely made me curious about her poems!

    • I really liked this collection and in each section Thumbelina’s mother addresses another character. If you want, she’ll be reading at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda on June 16